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Driver's License, Driving, and Use of the Family Car

Specify the Behaviors
Try to stay away from general concepts like, "You will be able to drive when you do better in school," "You will get your driver's license when you show me more responsibility," or "When you act your age, I will consider allowing you to get behind the wheel of a car." Your definition of doing better in school, showing more responsibility, and acting one's age is probably different from your teenager's. Be very specific and map out exactly what the child has to do in order to obtain the goal. Avoid broad, general concepts. Following are several examples of behavioral problems and methods of dealing with them:
  1. Poor school performance. An adolescent is doing poorly in school because she is not doing what she is supposed to do (homework, class work, paying attention in class). This child already has her driver's license, but you do not feel that her level of responsibility in school warrants the use of the car.

    You might want to set up a weekly communication system with the school to monitor her behavior and performance. Under this system, you obtain weekly progress reports from her teacher regarding the completion of homework and class work and her behavior or attention in class.

    The child can earn a total of 30 points for the week for perfect performance. You might tell her that 15 points will get her the use of the car one day during the weekend, 20 points will get her two days, and anything over 25 points will allow her to use the car the entire weekend. By using a method like this, you have shown the teenager exactly what "doing better in school" means, and if she wants to use the car, she knows what she has to do in order to obtain this privilege.

  2. Problems with temper. Another child wants to obtain his driver's license, but has difficulty controlling his temper. He also becomes easily upset and agitated when things do not go as planned or expected, when he is faced with obstacles, or when he does not get his way. Because of this behavior, you question how he would respond behind the wheel of a car if he became upset. Therefore, in order for you to gain more confidence in allowing him to get a driver's license, this behavior would have to improve.

    You would very specifically define the behavior that you want to eliminate: "When you get angry, you usually start screaming or throwing things. Each week that you do not show these behaviors, you will earn a point. When you get ten points, you may get your permit and you can take driver's education. After that happens, each week that you do not show these behaviors we will be able to practice driving for half an hour on Sunday. When you have accumulated six hours of driving time, I will let you take the test for your license." After the driver's license is obtained, use of the car could also be determined on a weekly basis by the adolescent's ability to control his temper.

  3. Irresponsibility around the house. This particular teenager, for example, does not pick up after himself, or has to be told many times to clean his room or straighten up the bathroom. A child displaying this kind of behavior could earn driving privileges by showing more responsibility at home. You could specifically define what you mean by responsibility and set up a chart or keep a record of the child's behavior during the week. A similar procedure could be used as follows.
    For example, a child may be able to use the car for a total of eight hours a week. Responsibility for this child could be defined as taking care of his belongings, putting things where they belong, cleaning up after himself, and so on. This could be put on a chart. Every time the child leaves his shoes in the den, does not clean the kitchen after he eats, leaves the bathroom a mess, or performs any other behavior that has been previously defined, a mark could be placed on the chart. For every mark that was received during the week, he would lose 15 minutes of driving time. If he received 20 marks during the week, he would only be able to use the car for three hours the following week.

    Similar procedures, involving a driver's license or use of the car, could be used to modify behaviors such as fighting with siblings, insolence, or coming home on time.

More on: Teen Driving


From Keys to Parenting Your Teenager by Don Fontenelle, Ph.D. Copyright 2000 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Buy the book at Barron's.

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